Child Labour in China

26 Feb

Authorities in Southern China’s Guangdong Province claimed they had made several arrests and had “rescued” over 100 children from factories in the city of Dongguan. Dongguan is home to one of the country’s largest manufacturing centres for electronics sold around the world. Police stated that they were investigating reports that hundreds of children had been forced out of their rural homes to work in factories in almost slave-like conditions for minimal pay. Reports say that children aged between 13 and 15 were frequently tricked by employment agencies and sent to work in factories in Guangdong Province.

Liufu Zong was a 14-year-old boy who died in his dormitory at an electronics factory in Dongguan, Guangdong province in China. After not being able to be woken up at 7 am, on May 21st 2013, his roomates checked to see if he was ok but his body was cold so he was rushed to hospital immediately. The Police discovered hat Liufu Zong had concealed his real name and age from his employers and an employment agency had sent him to work in the electronics factory using an identity card in the name of ‘Su Longda’, who is aged over 18. His father believes that his son died due to being overworked as he was perfectly healthy before leaving to Dongguan as a migrant worker. The electronics company had about 300 workers who were also signed with employment agencies, meaning that there may be many other workers also not of legal age to work. Zong left school at 12 to help his farmer father provide for a family of six. When he joined the electronics company he was paid just 11 yuan which is equivalent to $1.79 an hour, he worked approximately 50 extra hours a month. A relative of Liufu Zong says that the factory refused to allow Zong’s father to visit the workplace.

Another tragic story is of 38 children, aged 8 to 11, who were killed in an explosion whilst working in a factory which produced fireworks. There is thought to be over 5 million Chinese children also out of school and working in dangerous, low-paid positions. This huge number is partly due to the fact that there is an unfair shortage of schools in rural China, meaning that, for many rural students, the trek to school is very long and often very dangerous.

Some experts say that rising costs of labour, energy and raw materials, along with labour shortages in some parts of Southern China, have forced some factory owners to cut costs by using cheap, child labour. Most of the child workforce is found to come from less-developed, poverty-stricken regions where parents have been reported to sell their children as they have limited knowledge of the poor working conditions.

However, it is not just small, relatively unknown companies that employ children. Apple admitted to employing 91 children under the age of 16 in 2010 in some of its factories in China. However, Apple has made up for its mistakes by returning children to their families and has forced factories to either cover the costs of education for the underage workers for six months, or until they reach the age of 16.

The minimum age of employment is now 16, according to China’s new labour law. Beijing has increased its efforts to crack down on child labor, for example, last August, Beijing removed the license of a factory accused of using child labour to produce Olympic merchandise.

Dan, H. (2013) ‘Boy’s death focuses attention on child labor‘. China Daily [Online] 06/12. Available at http://Http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-06/12/content_16608993.htm [Accessed 26/02/2014].

Barboza, D. (2008) ‘China Says Abusive Child Labor Ring Is Exposed‘. The New York Times [Online] 01/05. Available at http://Http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/01/world/asia/01china.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 [Accessed 26/02/2014].

Free The Children (2014) Rural China [Online] Available at http://Http://www.freethechildren.com/international-programming/where-we-work/china/ [Accessed 26/02/2014]

Moore, M. (2011) ‘Apple’s child labour issues worsen‘. The Telegraph [Online] 15/02. Available at http://Http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/8324867/Apples-child-labour-issues-worsen.html [Accessed 26/02/2014].

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One Response to “Child Labour in China”

  1. hm9g12 February 27, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    Would you agree that China’s taken the right route with respect to child labour? Is banning all children under the age of 16 from participating in the labour market the correct way to combat the issue?

    Clearly child labour is a huge, and horrid, problem amongst developing countries, and it has many effects on their population. It disrupts a child’s education, causes physical stunting, and children are often subject to especially cruel and exploitative working conditions. In 2008 215 million children were classified as child labourers, and about 20,000 children die from work related incidents ever year.

    Nevertheless, without work, a child may become severely malnourished; whilst with work, school fees as well as basic nutrition and health care may be available. Therefore, China’s immediate ban on all child labour is potentially counter-productive, and an intermediate approach is more sought after in international policy circles:

    • The World Bank argues that child labour is an expression of poverty, therefore we
    should continues to work towards the eradication of poverty, rather than address
    child labour directly.
    • International agencies and development bodies say that we need to get more
    children into school using cash incentives
    • UNICEF’s position is that child labour is inevitable in the short run, therefore
    palliative measures should be used, such as greater regulation and support services
    for working children

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